I am holding a copy of Laura Bates’ Everyday Sexism in my hands and I’m getting riled up. Most of what is mentioned in the 140 pages I’ve read so far has happened to me. I have reported some of the major incidents, but for the most part, I have only confided in my friends. The sad part is, the major incidents were the one others believed the least. The people I confided in didn’t want it to be true. I could see it in their eyes; the fear of the truth. Maybe they were reliving something similar that had happened to them, or maybe, they didn’t want to hear that it could and would happen to people they know and many others.
I recently started speaking up in a larger way. I made a YouTube video to share what had happened to me at a tech conference. It opened up a discussion with some members of the tech community, especially some women that had experienced sexual harassment as well. I started a feminist book club to discuss these issues with other people. I started tweeting more and reading more. I learned a lot about myself and others because of these initiatives. I realized that women want to be heard, but they don’t know how to go about it. When they speak up, they are silenced. I believe I can do more to help my fellow women.
When I read Laura’s book, I thought three things. One, everyone needs to get a copy of that book right away. Presents galore! Two, this is great, she gave women a voice. A safe place to share their experience and feel heard. Three, why haven’t I read the life story a woman living through everyday sexism? I read novels about rape, many, many statistics about rape, I read The Vagina Monologues, which was great, and several more feminist books. Sadly, I don’t recall reading a women’s life struggle with everyday sexism. So, I have decided to write my story and to share it with you through this blog.
It should be noted that I am white, middle-class and raised in a small town in Canada so my story might be different from yours. I don’t want you to think: “Oh, what does this privileged-educated-white woman know about sexism?” Therein lies the problem. We need to stand together. If even I, the privileged women, can’t stand up for myself, there is a big problem. So, here I am writing my story and hoping that it’ll help you feel less alone in this sexist and unequal world.
I want to point out that I cannot speak for most of the LGBTQAI+ community, although I do identify as bisexual. I am fighting for everyone to be equal, but I have to start with what I know and what I know is me. I will share my experience and hopefully, others will feel like they can share theirs. I am learning every day and hope that we can learn and grow together.
Being marginialized isn’t easy. I have struggled simply because I am a woman. I have watched women around me encounter injustices, suffer various types of abuse, and struggle with simply existing in this world as the “lesser” sex. It affects us greatly. Especially when they are small occurrences because they seem harmless. The individual incidents seem so intrinsic to everyday life, you might not even notice them. As Laura Bates puts it in her book:
“[…] it isn’t just about the individual incidents; it’s about the collective impact on everything else – the way you think about yourself, the way you approach public spaces and human interactions, the limits you place on your own aspirations, and the things you stop yourself from doing before you even try because of bitter learned experiences.” – Everyday Sexism, Laura Bates, p.309
I do believe the world is changing, but I can’t tell if it’s for better or worse. When I read the news and see another oppressive male tyrant being nominated to run a country, I die a little.
We cannot do this without collectively sharing our experiences and standing together. We may be called minorities but when together we form the majority. I know it’s hard, especially when the people you report it to dismiss it or tell you it’s your own fault. It’s not your fault and you need to stand up for yourself. If we all stand up, they’ll have no choice but to see us. They will undoubtedly shield their eyes and block our paths with nonsensical legislations or dismissive comments, but we won’t stop. To incorrectly quote Miley Cyrus: “We can’t stop”.
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